I wanted you to know that on Easter (April 2011) this past year I was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. That significant decision began three years ago and involved two rounds of RCIA (the adult catechism course), wise counsel, and much prayer.
I want to emphasize that my decision is a personal one. Desert Stream Ministries has not become Catholic; it remains ecumenical and will continue to serve a variety of churches, mostly evangelical, which seek to minister to broken ones.
Furthermore, the Living Waters program will not be altered in any way. Its foundations are intact, a gift to the whole church.
I decided to become Catholic for several reasons. The first is the leading of the Spirit. I surrendered my desire for the Church after a year, and yet my longing intensified.
The reasons for my longings are evident: I love the centrality of Christ Crucified, the Eucharistic celebration in its two-fold emphasis on breaking open the Word and Bread daily, a non-personality driven approach to church-life, the Church calendar, and the historic teachings of the Church in regards to moral theology.
‘The Catholic Church is the sole surviving coherent institutional voice of morality in a world under the tyranny of relativism,’ wrote one Pope, expressing well one reason for my standing with the Church in this hour.
What I love challenges me continuously. What the Church believes she struggles to live. And though I agree with most fundamental doctrines contained in the catechism, I am troubled by some, and continue to seek God and wise counsel about them. Also, parish life is not highly conducive to the ministry I have pioneered, and will require more patience and wisdom than I have.
Answers to a few commonly asked questions:
Confession to a priest? I see no conflict between confessing to a priest and the type of confession we do daily with one another in our ‘Living Waters’ world. A Catholic seeking sobriety in today’s idolatrous world needs both a good priest and good friends with whom to work out grace and truth-filled accountability.
A closed Eucharist? I value the Church’s high view of communion. I did not partake of the Eucharist until I was confirmed, respecting that only Catholics are allowed to partake of what is believed to be the Lord’s Body and Blood. However, I have no conflict with partaking of the Lord’s Supper with Protestants who hold a different view of the elements.
The idolatry of Mary? I have always valued Mary more than most evangelicals: ‘Blessed is she among women’ is biblical truth! I honor her because she points away from herself and toward Jesus continuously. The Catechism forbids the deification of her and thus of anything approaching worship. Because I value her humility above all else, I struggle with the attention the Church gives her, and certain doctrines that grant her attributes that I do not see reflected in Scripture. Though these are not ‘deal-breakers’ for me, they give me pause. Pray that I might distill what is precious from what isn’t.
Lay ministry in the Catholic Church? The Church highly values the ministry of lay persons. That is essential for me, for our mission at Desert Stream involves equipping the saints to walk with other saints into sexual and relational wholeness. For my volunteer service (each Desert Stream staff person must be involved in a church-based healing group), I am exploring an opportunity to serve the Church where I live. God help me and them!
Wholeness and holiness in a perverted Church? The Church has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals for a couple of decades now. It is a good and necessary thing. I believe that God is disciplining her, as Christian ‘love’ without discipline is not love at all. Strangely, my allegiance to the Pope came about in the last year amid all the scandals. I entrusted myself to him as the leader of my Church and vowed to prayerfully stand with him in this crucial hour of his leadership.
I await new partnerships with which to serve the Church in this hour of her discipline. She currently has few effective outlets for sexual restoration, beginning with her priests. It is too early to tell how I might help her. I shall begin by serving where I can in the local church or diocese.
A schism in Living Waters due to my conversion? A rumor began last summer that my Catholicism broke up our unity in Living Waters, especially in South America. That is false. Argentine Mauricio Montion chose to no longer serve under my leadership due to my change, and the Living Waters International Council assigned him another overseer. I am glad he is still committed to Living Waters and that he has fresh oversight.
Is Annette a Catholic? Annette began the process toward Roman Catholicism with me then stopped mid-way through. We work hard to sort out our differences here. I attend her Church on Sunday morning then go to early Communion most mornings. It is not easy but as mature Christians and married partners we are seeking to grow through this challenge.
(I would not recommend that spouses go to different churches! At this point, however, we are doing the best we can, respecting one another’s consciences.)
An evangelical Catholic? You betcha. My roots will always be evangelical. I believe in the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ, founded on the Scripture. I also believe in the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. That means I have more to learn than I ever will; I hope it also means that my reliance upon Jesus and each other as our Source for sexual wholeness will wake up sleepy Catholics.
Catholic elitism? I do not think of myself as having found the exclusive or best Church; I respect everyone’s right to discover Jesus where (s)he finds Him on the local Church level. The Desert Stream staff represents a variety of Churches; we work out daily what it means to find the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Combined, we compose one body.
Church Unity? The little conflicts that have arisen thus far over my Catholicism are an acute reminder to me of how divided the Christian Church is. While praying the other day, I saw a gulf of water between two groups of people. It was vast, water mixed with blood. Instinctually I knew that this was the Mercy stream from the Crucified; it also represented the Protestant/Catholic divide, still bloody, still too large to bridge.
Then I saw broken people coming to either side of the river and putting their weary, fractured limbs in the water. They were receiving healing and were unconcerned about the doctrinal differences on ‘the other side.’ They just wanted and needed Jesus and welcomed all who sought the same. Healing of sexual brokenness was helping to heal the greater divide between the two groups.
I pray that the mission of Desert Stream Ministries will do its part to heal our one divided Church.
‘There is one body, and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’(Eph. 3:4, 5)
UPDATE January 23rd 2012 at 2:00 PM CST:
Thank you all for your concerned, thoughtful response to my Catholicism. It honors me that you would take the time to respond. I am reminded of the many years we have stood together for holiness and wholeness in Christ’s body. Our commitment endures, even as the particular arm of Christ’s body in which we stand may have changed! Again, bless you for your friendship, advocacy, and respect, even if you disagree with aspects of Roman Catholicism. We all love Jesus, and are seeking to prepare a people for Himself. Even so Lord, come!